Chennai’s devastating tragedy has brought forth varied emotions: anger at the government, shock at what nature’s capable of and sadness at the loss of both life and property. But one emotion than reigns supreme is the grit of the ones unaffected to help the ones in dire need.
Unmindful of dangers they are subjecting themselves to, doctors from all over the country — including from neighbouring Bengaluru and various specialist teams have been carrying out rescue efforts to ensure they save as many lives as they can. While the need for food and clean water remains top on the list, Dr Yogesh Kumar, a spine specialist from Bengaluru’s Manipal Hospital, says that one must not forget that there is absolutely no reliable source of electricity.
“And that means all rescue missions have to be aborted after sun down. In Chennai’s case that is 5 pm — it gets pitch dark and since you can’t see anything, you can’t go out there to help others,” says Dr Yogesh, who is personally taking 50 kilos of candles and 1,000 packets of bread. Leaving from Manipal Hospital on Monday morning, Dr Yogesh will be travelling by a lorry to the flood-affected region that also houses his parents and friends. “My parents stay at Velachery and even though the low-lying areas are inundated, my family is fortunately safe. I have few friends there and I want to go and help them out. We leave at 7 am, and it’ll take us at least six hours to get to Chennai; we want to get there by early afternoon as our work will be thwarted if it gets dark,” says Dr Yogesh, adding, “And yes, as a doctor if I am required for my expertise, I will certainly volunteer and help out in I whatever way I can,” he says.
People’s willingness to help, no matter how small the contribution, is an act that the people of Chennai are thankful for. “We have no dearth of volunteers, people have just been pouring in to help,” says Dr Senthil Nathan, child surgeon at Children’s Hospital, Egmore, Chennai, grateful for the downpour of volunteers. Apart from the water clogging at the entrance, Dr Senthil explains that the hospital has been able to function properly. “And we have also been able to go out and help people with vaccinations and other infections,” says Dr Senthil, adding, “Southern Chennai has been worst affected and the issues that people have been walking in with are diarrhea, problems faced due to sewage contamination, mosquitoes, etc.”
And from creating makeshift bridges with the help of lab tables to working round the clock with patients that some hospitals had dumped a team from Apollo Hospitals explained how the city was like a warzone. “Every day has been crazy here — there is over five feet water on one side and over four feet on the other, cutting off all the access points for the hospitals to the patients,” claims Dr Subbiah Vishwanathan, from Apollo Hospitals.
From minor injuries to ICU patients being transferred from other hospitals, the team has been working round the clock making sure every patient was taken care of. “There were 400 to 500 patients any given day. One of the main issues faced by the hospital was no mobile phone coverage, so people put together a command centre on the premises. We had walkies-talkies and whenever there was any need, we would send out messages through social media,” says Dr Vishwanathan. “It’s true. Now, the real challenge awaits us after the floods, but we believe we are ready and we will do out best.”
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